I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Bay Area church pastor charged with child sexual abuse

"It changed my life totally, mentally. I was dead. It killed me," said an alleged victim

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Saturday, December 2, 2023
EXCLUSIVE: Bay Area church pastor charged with child sexual abuse
An East Bay pastor is under arrest, charged with several counts of kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 14.

RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- The pastor of an East Bay church for Immigrants from Central America has been arrested, charged with several counts of kidnapping and "aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 14". His alleged victim? A member of his congregation.

The I-Team's Dan Noyes began looking into this after hearing from one very concerned family. We first asked the police about the allegations last week - they said the investigation was on-going and on Friday, they made an arrest.

Just a few months ago, this church -- Iglesia Pentecostes Movimiento de Gloria in Richmond -- attracted 150 people or more for services.

Then, allegations of sexual abuse started surfacing against the pastor, 53-year-old Victor Manuel Hernandez, and now the church is lucky to draw a dozen people on a Sunday.

Until a month ago, Pablo Cifuentes was a senior official at the church, an elder.

"He said that I was his friend. He said that I was his right-hand man but when I found out, he made me so, so angry," he told the I-Team.

His 21-year-old daughter, Karen, just recently told her parents, when she was thirteen, the pastor convinced her it was God's will that they have sex.

"He took me to a hotel near the school and at that moment I told him that I didn't feel safe," she said. "I didn't feel good and that we shouldn't do it, but he made me do it."

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Karen tells us she resisted because of their age difference, because he was married, because he was her pastor. But, she says the sexual abuse occurred five times over a span of three years.

"It changed my life totally, mentally. I was dead. It killed me. I did not think the same, my grades went down. I was angry with my parents at home. I acted out. I could not tell my parents anything and I was always angry."

When she finally told her parents two months ago, they were devastated.

SONIA GONZALEZ, MOTHER: "I couldn't believe it," her mother, Sonia Gonzales, said. "It was difficult. My daughter was very small. I thought it was my fault for confiding in him. We went to that church searching for love, searching for help, and we found it, but in the end we were damaged."

They left the church a month ago and say they will never return.

Cifuentes told us, "When I found out from my daughter's lips what had happened to her, I felt like grabbing him and making him disappear. But I also understood that doing it with my own hands would get me into trouble."

So, Pablo Cifuentes called the police and filed a report. He says he didn't hear back, so he contacted the I-Team through a friend. Cifuentes says, as a church elder, he heard complaints about the pastor from others, including Joseline Alvarez.

JOSELINE ALVAREZ : "It happened 24 days ago."

DAN NOYES: "In just the past month?"


The teen and her mother tell us Pastor Hernandez requested a private meeting with her in a room upstairs in the church.

JOSELINE ALVAREZ : "He hugged me like very tight, like he didn't want to let me go. And then he started like touching my-(motions to thigh)."

DAN NOYES: "Your thigh?"

JOSELINE ALVAREZ : "Yeah, my thigh. And then after that, he got my hand and put it on his thigh."

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The teen says the pastor tried to kiss her, that she felt uncomfortable and left. "I just didn't know what to think because he's a pastor. Like, why would he do that to me?"

Her mother feels strongly enough that she, too, has quit the church.

"It worried me a lot because I felt that something worse was going to happen to her," said Sonia Aldana. "I got angry, I got very upset because he is a pastor. That is not right what he did."

Dan Noyes called and texted Pastor Hernandez. When he didn't respond, he met him as he arrived for the 10 a.m. service this past Sunday.

DAN NOYES: "Victor, I'm Dan Noyes from Channel 7. I need to talk to you. Would you do an interview with me, please?"


DAN NOYES: "I'd like to talk to you about the accusations that young girls and young women are making against you of sexual abuse. Would you talk to me, please?"

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The pastor didn't say a word, just made that gesture when we mentioned complaints of sexual abuse. His adult daughter and son pushed Dan Noyes out of the way and blocked his camera, as he pulled up the window.

Noyes told the pastor's children, "This is a public place. Victor?"

We also wanted to ask about that fancy car, the BMW M5 with competition package that he bought new two years ago for more than $110,000, while he encourages his congregation of Central American immigrants to tithe - to give 10% of their income to the church. And, we wanted to ask about his assault rifle.

He photographed Karen Cifuentes holding it during the time she says he was sexually abusing her.

"What I want is for him to go to jail," Karen Cifuentes said. "I don't feel safe. ... He could harm me because I'm asking for help and he could find out and harm me. What he did was wrong. It's not right. And I want the police to act."

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Richmond Police arrested Pastor Hernandez Friday afternoon. Dan Noyes was there as he arrived to be booked. He faces four counts of "aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 14" and three counts of kidnapping.

Karen Cifuentes tells us the pastor would pose as a family member, take her out of school and go to a hotel. Investigators say they moved to arrest Hernandez, because he may have become aware of the police investigation.

"When that happens, we feel it's important to get them into custody, you know, whether it be to prevent them from fleeing, whether it be to protect the victim. All those are factors in which it would cause us to accelerate our investigation and take them into custody," said Lt. Donald Patchin of Richmond Polide Department.

Hernandez is being held on $7 million bail. He has retained a defense attorney who tells us they will not comment about his arrest, or this report.

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